It’s important that you establish a regular dialogue between your employees that allows opinions and points of you to be heard. In my role, I’m happy to facilitate these discussions so that everyone feels comfortable sharing and contributing recommendations.
Recently I met with a company to help facilitate what we might call a “strategic benefits planning session”. The organization was evaluating what they were providing their employees
In the room were myself, the owner/President, the CFO, and the HR manager.
The president started with a statement that defined how he felt the employees, in general, should be treated. He felt strongly about how his employees were the key to his success and that they cannot be taken for granted. He was in a bit of a conflict though, around spending money and not getting a return for his investment. Specific to benefits – he said he was spending an awful lot of money and wondered if employees really appreciated what they were getting.
The CFO did a short review of the budget and confirmed that their rates had risen by 6% a year on average in each of the last 5 years. Essentially, benefits were becoming an increasingly large part of their labor cost. He reminded the president how he had been given the mandate to control benefit costs and that threw a series of plan cut backs they had made some headway. Although he appreciated the need to reward employees properly he confirmed that budgets would not allow further increases without a sacrifice to profit.
The HR person, who was fairly new to the company and worked 3 days a week, talked about many new benefits that should be given consideration. She listed wellness, employee assistance, an improved employee communications strategy, and several other items. She described how the employees have approached her on several concerns and that she feels it is appropriate that they respond with some answers. Her frustration was obvious – stemming from the amount of projects she had on her plate vs. the limited time she had over 3 days. She finished by giving everyone in the room a cautionary message that employees were not at all happy with so much being taken away from them in the last 3 years. Employee perception, in her opinion, was quite low as it related to benefits.
The room went a little quiet at this point, no one really knew who should speak next. I knew I could help by asking an important question. So, with permission I proceeded to ask…
“Who in the room feels that benefits’ is their responsibility? Who is making decisions related to benefits right now?”
Again, there was more awkward silence until the President said…
“Ultimately, I make the final decision here but I depend on my team to advise me properly.”
The scenario I just described is very common and perhaps quite similar to what you experience at your organization. Ask yourself if you feel this way:
– limited time to devote to benefits throughout the year
– concerns about making proper recommendations to your superior
– looking bad in the eyes of employees
It’s important that you establish a regular dialogue between your team that allows opinions and points of you to be heard. In our role, we are happy to facilitate these discussions so that everyone feels comfortable sharing and contributing recommendations.
I’m not saying that this dynamic between the team members should be easy but I think we could all make better decisions if we balance the various issues and points of you around the table. Given that I deal with benefits and employee perception issues almost daily – I don’t mind helping my clients reach consensus on decisions if they are comfortable having me in the room – and a contributor to the team.